Triathlete J’aime embracing winter running in New England
Anticipating the alarm, I lay in the darkness of a winter morning. Knowing it will go off at any moment, but not knowing the actual time. No point in getting up before I need to. I wonder what time it is. Wondering… gets to me, so I roll over to the edge of my bed to note the time. Pressing the button on my phone/alarm clock… yikes it’s bright! A big “3” on the screen, I squint to save my eyes. It’s still earlier than I need to actually get up. If I want to run today, Saturday, I would have to be out on the road by 4:15, done, showered, dress, travel to the bus. Then ride three hours down and three back with the swim team, a long day consumed by work. Which all means I need to get up to get dressed and running soon. Four a.m. is my planned “go time”. It’s still earlier than I need to actually get myself up. So I wait. A few seconds pass. No point. I can’t sleep. I get up and get ready to get out. The earlier time allows me to do some yoga, sun salutations with a lunge to warm-up, before heading out. It remains bitter cold, this I know from the preceding days. My body is warm from the morning. I bundle for single digit temps.
Out on the well light roads of my community, the snow crunchy and dry under foot. Dressed like a bank robber from some old time movie. I walk for 5 minutes as a means to get my body as well as my mind ready for my run. The stillness in the air and in me is beautiful, synchronized. I run, slowly at first. Intervals, Ten minutes of running, then a short recovery walk. Between street lights, I see the dark sky with the twinkling of stars. As much as I enjoy the street lights to show me the path, I wish them to go out so I can take in depth of the sky. It’s black, winter, pure stillness. Crisp air is an understatement, yet no one but me and the squeaky crunching of my footsteps on snow. The wind is present when I head north west, biting, and wakes me to check and cover my skin. I hunker down to my own body heat and the layers of my running garb. If anyone saw me they’d surely say I am nuts. I’d agree, laugh at myself and carry on. If I was going to run today, this would be it. Committed to training for a half marathon in March, means running now. Acceptance that this is what I need to do for now. Just embrace it, I think to myself. Embrace it all, the cold, the sounds, images, sensations. This is what it’s like to be here now. I felt the icicles on my eyelashes, they were a little sticky. My feet touch the ground, each foot strike, each sense of effort and sensation, my breath, my arm swing, my hips swivel, and my muscles contract, relax as I move.
Just over an hour from when I started, I rounded the corner onto my street. More traffic was apparent now, about 5:30 am and people were stirring. I was no longer alone in the “hood”. Ascending the stairs to my home I started stripping off my layers. My flesh was chilled. I could feel it. The layer of sweat soaked clothes off, into the warm shower I go. Embracing the heat of the water, my chilled flesh tingles. Embrace the moment. I finishing packing my bag for the day, for the swim meet, and making my breakfast to consume once I was on the bus, and relaxed.
Heading out the door to my awaiting warm Mini, I had a sensation, a tug or a pull from within that “said” to grab my sleeping bag. Aware of this inclination, I grabbed my bag. Experience has taught me that when these insights occur to just go with it. Leave my logical mind out of it and to trust my intuition. My logical brain was about to kick in, “you don’t need that, it’s just one more thing to haul around.” How grateful, in the end, for trusting and listening to this intuition .
As I approached the parking lot, I saw it. A tin can of an “ice bus”. We, the women’s swim and dive team, all hunkered down in the still 6:30 a.m. darkness of the school bus, our frozen chariot for the day. Not the typical big, warm, fuzzy, Coach bus. A no heat, big yellow school bus. December. The coldest time of day is just before sunrise when the sun has been missing from the sky for the longest stretch of time. Yes, I could make donuts with my breath in the air. The young ladies whined and complained, the “pain” that something is happening when you think it should not be happening, especially to you. The captain of the swim team loudly shared the idea to “just embrace it!” as she simultaneously lay back on the cold leather seat made hard by the literally frozen temperature of the bus, flinging her blanket over her already bundled body. The team members responded to this call by quietly laying back in a seat. Whether or not they heeded her suggestion to “embrace it”, I don’t know. I did! I too, snuggled into my sleeping bag, embracing the experience, grateful I listened to my earlier intuition.
As I roll up into my bag, covering my toes up to my nose, I think of a movie. I love movies, often remembering one liners from them then finding an opportune time to use it. At this moment, from the movie “GI Jane” with Demi Moore, this line, from a hard ass military dude in the movie responsible for training the, came to mind “…pain, it is your friend, it lets you know you are alive!” Though I wasn’t in “pain” it was an uncomfortable situation, one we would all survive. Yet, I did connect the idea that being physically present offered a level of aliveness. To be alive is to embrace the darkness, the pain, the discomfort whether it be physical or emotional, to alter your state of consciousness. (Typically we often just focus on light/joy). It is one of our best teachers to see more clearly, it lets you know you are alive, to learn from it, to leave room, to understand, to learn we can be resilient, to understand compassion. To then transcend it.
Today, this moment, is a place to start by embracing wherever you are.